Source: O'Reilly Digital Photography Hacks
You have seen those flattering professional photos with soft lighting. While you can achieve the same with softening or diffusion filters, these cost money. O'Reilly's Digital Photography Hacks explains a simpler way to achieve a similar effect.
A simpler way to achieve a similar effect is the use of a pantyhose. Stretch a piece of beige colored pantyhose in front of the lens & clamp it using a rubberband. The tension in the pantyhose will define the level of softness: the tighter the pantyhose, the milder is the effect. Take multiple shots at different tension levels; finally select the one that appeals the most to you.